Cupriavidus sp. are generally heavy metal tolerant bacteria with the ability to degrade a variety of aromatic hydrocarbon compounds, although the degradation pathways and substrate versatilities remain largely unknown. Here we studied the bacterium Cupriavidus gilardii strain CR3, which was isolated from a natural asphalt deposit, and which was shown to utilize naphthenic acids as a sole carbon source. Genome sequencing of C. gilardii CR3 was carried out to elucidate possible mechanisms for the naphthenic acid biodegradation. The genome of C. gilardii CR3 was composed of two circular chromosomes chr1 and chr2 of respectively 3,539,530 bp and 2,039,213 bp in size. The genome for strain CR3 encoded 4,502 putative protein-coding genes, 59 tRNA genes, and many other non-coding genes. Many genes were associated with xenobiotic biodegradation and metal resistance functions. Pathway prediction for degradation of cyclohexanecarboxylic acid, a representative naphthenic acid, suggested that naphthenic acid undergoes initial ring-cleavage, after which the ring fission products can be degraded via several plausible degradation pathways including a mechanism similar to that used for fatty acid oxidation. The final metabolic products of these pathways are unstable or volatile compounds that were not toxic to CR3. Strain CR3 was also shown to have tolerance to at least 10 heavy metals, which was mainly achieved by self-detoxification through ion efflux, metal-complexation and metal-reduction, and a powerful DNA self-repair mechanism. Our genomic analysis suggests that CR3 is well adapted to survive the harsh environment in natural asphalts containing naphthenic acids and high concentrations of heavy metals.
Journal: PloS one